Yahoo! submitted comments to Docket No. FDA‐2009‐N‐0441 regarding Promotion of FDA‐Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools (find it here).

In defense of the “one-click rule” for space-limited “generic” search ads and “Rich Ads in Search (RAIS),” Yahoo! presented a study that purports to prove that “When it comes to side effects… the patient mindset appears to be ambivalent until research for an ailment is needed” (see Exhibit A (pdf)). The following chart was offered in evidence:

The question, which was posed to 2,540 Online Americans in the study, was “As you may or may not know the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) mandates companies to lay out side effect information or risk factors in advertising. Using the scale below please tell us how much you agree with the following statements when it comes to medication advertising online.”

It’s not clear from Yahoo!’s comments whether or not respondents to their survey were asked to look at specific online ads. Recall that Merck, in its defense of the “one-click rule,” did a study that asked respondents opinions about specific ads they were shown (see “Merck Says FDA Should Approve the ‘One-Click Rule’“).

A bigger problem I have with these data is that they do not support Yahoo!’s conclusion. Although 23-26% of respondents claim they agreed or strongly agreed with the statements, twice as many (43-45%) must have said they disagreed or strongly disagreed! I contend, therefore, that these results DO NOT prove the point that Yahoo! was trying to make. In fact, the data prove just the opposite: patients DO pay attention to medication side effects in online advertising BEFORE they ask their doctors or research it more online!

Am I not seeing something that I should be seeing in these data? Take a look at Exhibit A (pdf) yourself and tell me what you think.